The United States had nothing to be afraid of at this World Cup. They should have approached every game like they knew they were going to win, and they did. They should have beaten Japan, get their revenge from four years ago, and win the Women's World Cup final. And that's exactly what happened.
We meant it this time.
We didn't mean it last time, when we said the men's team were going to win the World Cup, but you know that. We made GIFs of Hulk Hogan crushing our opponents because we were afraid. There was a very real possibility that the USMNT could play very well in all three of their group stage games and walk away with zero points, last place in the World Cup. Americans are not the type of people who enjoy staring reality in the face. We ignore it and tell ourselves that we will win, because f--k you, we're America, that's why.
But the U.S. men are a solid, second-tier soccer team. As they've improved, the United States has declined in more important things, and they're now a microcosm of the country as a whole. We're roughly 15th-20th best at men's soccer, just like we are at education, manufacturing, public transportation, science and health care. We're pretty damn good, and we wish we were the best, but we don't exactly know how to go about it, so we pretend that we're exceptional to mask our crippling insecurities.
We don't have to pretend we're the best at women's soccer. We're so good that the rest of the world started spending gobs of money to catch up to us because they were so pissed off that America, of all countries, was better at football than everyone else. If Norway and Sweden dominated the game forever, no one would have cared. Germany and France and all of the up-and-coming European powers in the women's game would have shrugged their shoulders and let the Scandinavians do their thing. But Americans? That's unacceptable.
We didn't win the World Cup last time, you say? Sure, but those penalty kicks against Japan were a one in a million occurrence. It's hard to find a weirder, unluckier sequence of events in a professional sporting event. It will never happen again. And the 2007 World Cup? There's no Briana Scurry to prefer to Hope Solo this time around. The U.S. was the best team at both of those tournaments and just picked weird ways to screw it up.
The USWNT has avenged their losses after all of the last three World Cups. They fell to Germany in 2003, then beat them en route to a 2004 Olympic gold medal. They fell to Brazil in 2007, then beat them on the way to their 2008 gold. They fell to Japan in 2011, then beat them in the 2012 gold medal game. No one messes with us twice.
You thought Germany was better than the United States? It's impossible to know for sure before the Americans beat them, because the two teams refuse to schedule each other, but Germany didn't even do well enough at the World Cup they hosted to qualify for the Olympics. And their coach kept her job! Greg Ryan and April Heinrichs, the two U.S. coaches that failed to make the final, never coached professional teams again. You know we're serious about something when the Germans take failure better than we do.
American forward Abby Wambach is probably the best player of all time. Her detractors think that she's washed up, incapable of carrying the U.S., and a borderline pity selection who hasn't earned her spot, but she had 19 goals in the last year and a half for the USWNT coming into this tournament, scored in 30 games. That's how good she is -- that she scores 19 in 30 and it's not ridiculous to ask if she's washed up. But ask if 36-year-old German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer -- who isn't playing well right now -- is washed up and quite a few people get genuinely offended at the suggestion.
American Outlaws should not have been chanting "I believe that we will win" during the final. That's a good chant for the 15th-best team in the world, but garbage for this team. How about "I believe we'll kick your ass" instead? Or "I believe your team is crap"? This team doesn't need people to believe in them, they needed to know they're going to smash Japan.
Germany's great at this. So is France. Japan, Canada, Sweden and Brazil are pretty damn good. And over time, the women's game will improve technically and tactically to the point where a team full of physical monsters can't bulldoze their way to a World Cup title. That point might even be as soon as the next World Cup, but it's not 2015. The U.S. still has the best team and if they hadn't won the World Cup, it would have been a failure. They might not have any of the best two or three players at this tournament, but they have the best starting XI and undoubtedly, by a mile, the best 23-woman squad.
We didn't need to ante up, we needed to raise all in the second we saw our cards. Screw believing we can win the World Cup. That's for losers. We stomped on seven throats on our way to taking the World Cup. We're the best, f--k everyone else. Middle fingers up to the world.